May 26, 2005 - (Ossian, IN)

Cans

By Eric Olson

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 7, 2007 at 11:52 AM EDT

A dedicated hobbyist out in 21Country is about to see a lifetime's worth of work walk out the door.

And she has no regrets.

It’s staggering sometimes what you can collect over a lifetime.

Collector Ann Ewell says, “Every time I went out someplace, I came back with a lot of cans.”

Thirty years of casing antique shops and can meets have made Ann Ewell's soda can and bottle collection one of the largest private collections in the country.

Ewell says, “They got Coke up there with the big diamond on it and they got some with the small diamond. They're steel cans. They show up better. Now they're putting everything out in aluminum.”

Ann's been challenged by a recent stroke, but that hasn't curbed her enthusiasm for her hobby.

She caught the collecting bug from her husband, a very serious collector of beer cans and beer memorabilia.

Ewell says, “We used to go to beer can trade sessions. Yes, and I'd trade some of his beer cans for the soda cans.”

Ann's collection in her Ossian home holds about 100,000 cans.

There are regional sodas, like Grafs from Wisconsin...old cone top cans, the first soda cans made in America, some dating back to the '40's.

There's an entire room devoted just to Coke products...lots of original Coke bottles, now an American icon, designed by Studebaker car designer Raymond Loewy.

In fact, it was Coca Cola that killed off most of the makers of the historic cans in this collection.

Thousands of independent canners used to dot the American landscape.

In the '40's and '50's, Coke bought them all up and shut them down, beating the competition by absorbing it.

Ewell says, “Now these are all Indiana boxes here…from Fort Wayne, Kokomo, Muncie.”

Ann's soda memorabilia is equally impressive.

She has antique serving trays, thousands of soda post cards, toys, lunch boxes, signs...and she has an entire room of foreign cans, from Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, even Qatar.

But Ann Ewell's collection is about to be broken up.

Everything is being auctioned off at the end of this month, and you'd better believe the world of can collecting has taken notice.

Auctioneer Tim McCulloch says, “We've had internet. We've had Connecticut. We got people coming from Texas, Arizona, Missouri...going to be quite a crowd here because we've done over a thousand mailings.”

So, what is it going to be like on auction day when Ann sees her collection being boxed up and taken away? Ewell says, “I'm going to miss them, but I'm getting old enough glad to get rid of them.”

The mark of a true hobbyist...fun while it lasted, but time to move on to whatever comes next.




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